This post has been created to allow comments about Democrats at Work to be made in a relevant context. Drop those comments like Weiner drops his pants. Drop them hard like…um…best not to go there.
Cain is facing another potential crisis: Ginger White has come forth to apparently claim that she had a long lasting affair with Herman Cain. As might be imagined, this is not exactly good news for Cain’s lagging campaign.
Cain immediately denied the accusations, while noting that he did know the woman. His handling of the situation was better than his handling of previous accusations-thus showing that Cain has learned at least a bit about damage control. However, his lawyer released a rather odd statement which, as the pundits noted, does not seem to be the right sort of thing for a politician to issue for damage control. This shows that Cain needs to improve his organization and how it handles damage control-assuming that he is able to endure.
At this point, this is the classic “she says, he says” situation. Cain made an immediate and unequivocal denial which counts, to a degree, in his favor. After all, lying about an affair will generally do more political damage than admitting to an affair. Thus, a lie would not be very sensible and hence would (or should) be the less likely approach by Cain. Given Newt’s and Bill Clinton’s success, Cain should be aware that politicians who have affairs can do quite well.
That said, politicians have been known to lie about such things-even when the lie is far more damaging than the truth. Anthony Weiner is, of course, the most recent example of such an incident. The statement Cain’s lawyer released also muddled things a bit-while the legalese seems to be aimed any saying that Cain did not have an affair, the overall impression is seems to create is more along the lines of “if he had an affair, it is t the business of the media or the public.” This is hardly effective damage control and makes it seem like a set up for an admittance of wrongdoing. However, anyone who is familiar with legalese will point out that the statement is the sort of thing a lawyer would create even if his/her client did nothing at all. As such, the statement is hardly decisive evidence.
In regards to the woman, little is known about here. On the face of it, lying about this matter would seem to be a rather odd sort of thing-after all she is, as the pundits have noted, exposing herself to the full scrutiny of the media and laying her reputation on the line. Her accusation, if false, might even be considered slander or libel-given the damage such a charge could do to to Cain. As such, she would seem to have very good reasons not to make a false accusation.
However, one key point (as noted above) is that little is known about the woman, her credibility and her possible motivations. Until more information is known, the most rational thing to do is to suspend judgment on the claim against Cain.
If Cain is telling the truth, then he might be able to make a gain in the polls because of such a false attack. It would also give him some “armor” against ant future attacks of a similar nature.
If Cain is not telling the truth, then his campaign would probably be sunk. However, Bill Clinton was able to sludge with way through worse situations and hence there is a clear precedent for such political survival. Cain is, like Clinton, something of a charmer-but whether he is up to a Clinton level game is something that would have to be seen.
While our attention should be on the debt ceiling and other such national matters, another sex scandal has occurred. This one involves David Wu of Oregon, a Democrat. While Wu apparently was not Tweeting junk shots, he is alleged to have had an “unwanted sexual encounter” with a young woman. Wu is currently separated from his wife and apparently has various other personal issues he is dealing with.
Wu has decided to resign, but has stated that he will remain until the debt ceiling matter is settled. Given the way things have progressed with this matter, he might be there quite some time. The Democrats do, of course, have an excellent reason to let Wu remain for the duration. After all, he is a Democrat and they need all the votes they can get. Of course,Wu is from a district that is solidly Democrat in its voting and hence it seems likely that his replacement will be a Democrat. However, having Wu out of office while a replacement is being selected could put the Democrats at a disadvantage.
While it might seem that politicians are more prone to such poor behavior, it is probably the case that the engage in such misdeeds at roughly the rate of the general population. After all, the majority of politicians (like the majority if non-politicians) do not engage in such behavior (or, perhaps, simply do it well enough to avoid being caught). Politicians, however, differ from the general population in (at least) two main ways.
First, the news media is generally far more interested in the doings of politicians than the misconduct other folks (with the obvious exception of celebrities and those few who catch the lens of the media). Because politicians who behave badly end up garnering extensive media attention, it tends to create the impression that such behavior is common (this can be taken as the Spotlight Fallacy or the fallacy of Misleading Vividness).
Second, politicians tend to have personality traits that lead them to exacerbate such situations. For example, politicians tend to think that they are exempt from the usual rules. While normal folks often think this as well, it seems to be more extreme in the case of politicians. This often leads politicians to fail to recognize that they are acting badly and thus can not only lead them to act badly but also to continue to do so past the point when a normal person would realize that the game is up. As another example, politicians seem to be even more deceptive than non-politicians and this leads them to drag out the denial (such as was famously the case with Weiner). This factor, combined with the first factor, ensures that the sexual misdeeds of politicians will garner a great deal of attention.
After dragging out the tragic drama, Anthony Weiner finally decided to resign his position. This puts him in stark contrast with fellow New Yorker Chris Lee. After his shirtless-photo-Craigslist scandal, Lee promptly resigned.
Weiner’s career-ending injury was, of course, self-inflicted. As I have said before, the fatal blow was not his virtual infidelity. It was, of course, his decision to launch a prolonged campaign of deceit. If he had simply admitted to his behavior, then he would have been regarded as creepy but he might have not have been pushed to resign. Without the attempted cover up, the bump in his briefs would have probably been a brief bump in his career.
It might be argued that his virtual misdeed would be sufficient grounds for his resignation. After all, Chris Lee resigned after attempting to have an affair. This does have a certain appeal. After all, a member of congress is supposed to serve the interests of his district and he cannot do his job properly if he is caught up in a scandal. This does have considerable appeal. To use an analogy, many jobs (including my own) restrict the outside employment that an employee can undertake. The reason is, of course, that outside employment can interfere with the primary job. While being caught up in a scandal is not a job, it can have the same effect by consuming far too much time and focus. Of course, if the person is able to keep the scandal from impacting his duties, then this argument would fail in that case.
It can also be argued that members of congress who cannot keep their own members under control are unfit for office. This falls under the general question of what sort of unethical behavior (or violation of social norms) would be grounds for expecting a member of congress to resign.
One obvious answer is to refer to the rules specified by congress. As with any job, there are conditions of employment and these set the limits of allowed behavior. Provided that these limits are not violated, then there would seem to be a lack of justification to expect a resignation-even when the person behaves in ways that are regarded as inappropriate or even unethical. For example, a university professor cannot be fired merely for having an affair. Naturally, having an affair with a co-worker or student could be grounds for dismissal, but not because it is an affair.
Naturally enough, if a resignation is expected, this often means that there are not actual grounds for kicking the person out As far as I know, inappropriate (but not illegal) sexual behavior is not grounds for being given the boot from congress. Lying, except for the obvious case of doing so under oath, also does not seem to be against the rules. If it were, then the House and Senate would be rather empty.
Obviously enough, people are sometimes expected to resign even when they have not actually violated the rules. In the case of politicians, this seems to most often happen in cases involving sex. This, not surprisingly, reflects America’s rather unhealthy obsessions regarding sex.
It can be argued that politicians who are involved in sex scandals that do not break the relevant rules should still be pushed to resign. This could be done on ethical grounds. While we tend to regard politicians as an unethical lot, we still expect them to behave in ways we consider appropriate when it comes to sex and regard such violations as unethical. A rather appealing argument is that if a married politician will betray his wife, then he cannot be trusted and hence should leave office.
An obvious reply is that as long as the politician has not actually acted in ways that are relevant to his job, then his betrayal of his wife is not relevant. After all, a man can be relentlessly unfaithful to his wife and still be very competent and capable in his job.
Another appealing argument is that if a politician is engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior and has tried to conceal it, then it would seem reasonable to suspect that he might be up to other misdeeds and concealing them. The obvious reply is that such behavior (provided that it does not cross over into the criminal realm) is not actually relevant to job performance and the person’s competence. After all, I suspect that most married men are involved in some degree of what would be considered inappropriate behavior, yet they are able to function in their jobs.
In Weiner’s case, his resignation does seem to be the right thing to do. The scandal has reduced his ability to represent his district and he has shown that he has rather serious flaws in regards to ethics and judgment. He should, of course, have the chance to redeem himself. However, he needs to do this on his own time.
After his attempt to have an affair via Craigslist was exposed, Chris Lee apologized and resigned. On the face of it, that was the honorable and right thing to do.
Anthony Weiner’s case is slightly different. Rather than using Craigslist in an attempt to have an affair, he used various means of communication (Twitter, phone, etc.) to send photos and engage in talk about sex. He alleges that he did not have an actual affair and had no intention of doing so. Since his credibility is rather low, it is not a matter of certitude that he did not have an actual affair or that he did not attempt to initiate one. However, his virtual affairs were morally unacceptable and his lying was certainly unethical.
As to whether he is worse or better than Lee is something of a tough call. While Lee intended to have an affair, he apparently did not succeed. Weiner, however, engaged in ongoing virtual affairs and then engaged in a prolonged campaign of deceit. I am inclined to say that Weiner is worse.
As far as whether a politician should resign after a sex scandal, much depends on the specifics of the case. However, some general comments can be made.
On one hand, if the actions are not illegal and do not violate the specific rules governing the office (such as congressional ethic), then the actions would not seem to warrant resignation. After all, what would justify expecting a person to resign would seem to require that it be actually relevant to the job. So, for example, if a congressman has an affair using his own resources, then he would not seem to have acted in a way that violated the conditions of his job. If a congressman used federal money to pay for his hookers, then that would be a rather different matter. On this view, Lee need not have resigned.
On the other hand, such a scandal can indicate that the politician’s moral character is deeply flawed in ways that render him (or her) untrustworthy. Unlike many jobs, a high level politician is expected to act in ethical ways and not grossly violate community standards. While this seems odd to say, politician’s depend on their reputation and a politician who has been involved in sex scandal often damages this asset to the point were they can no longer effectively function. While we will tolerate all sorts of sneaky dealings and we expect politicians to lie, the public is still very intolerant of sexual straying on the part of politicians. Bill Clinton is, however, an obvious example. As such, there is also the concern that such a politician will damage his party, thus also giving a practical reason to resign.
The worst part of the Weiner case is not the sexual aspect. That made him into a joke. The worst part is the campaign of lies. While we do expect deceit from politicians, that degree of unrelenting deception in this matter showed that Weiner is quite willing to lie in an unrelenting manner. It also shows that he has some rather weak reasoning skills-at least in certain areas. As such, it seems reasonable to question whether or not he is actually capable of representing the people of his district. There is also the question of whether or not they want him-which is something that must be decided by the due process of the next election. Since there are not any real competency requirements for most political offices, the confidence of the voters seems to be the only real test.
Both Weiner and Palin have been the focus of the media for their mistakes. In the case of Weiner, his mistakes include inappropriate internet behavior and a campaign of deliberate lies. In the case of Palin, she was wrong about a well known event in American history, namely the ride of Paul Revere. This was rather ironic given the purported mission of her bus tour. Obviously enough, Weiner’s mistake was morally worse. Palin was simply wrong about basic facts that people are supposed to learn in grade school, while Weiner was engaging in virtual infidelity and actual lying.
Weiner, of course, tried to cover up his mistakes by lying. However, he eventually held a press conference in which he admitted his wrongdoing and accepted responsibility. Rather surprisingly, he answered questions for about thirty minutes. Obviously he should have never done what he did, but at least he ultimately accepted all the blame and engaged in an act of public repentance. I do not, of course, know if this was a decision on his part or whether he was pressured into this act of revelation and contrition by someone of greater maturity and better ethics (or perhaps merely a better practical sense).
Palin’s mistake, though beautifully ironic, was incredibly minor in comparison with Weiner’s misdeeds and campaign of lies. While some people might have simply admitted to the mistake, that is not the way of Palin. Instead she followed her standard tactics.
First, rather than honestly admitting she had made some factual errors, she insisted that she was right. Interestingly, the Wikipedia page on Revere was changed to match her version, allegedly by her supporters (the possibility of pranksters should, of course, be considered). For someone who claims to be on a bus tour devoted to American history and who claims to base her political theory on the historical founders, she really should stick with the historical facts rather than insist that her errors are correct.
Second, she blamed the “lame stream media” for trapping her with a “gotcha” question. While there are “gotcha” questions (I suspect she might mean loaded questions or what philosophers call the fallacy of complex question), she was asked “What have you seen so far today and what are you going to take away from your visit?” That hardly seems to be a “gotcha question.” That is the sort of question school children are asked and are typically able to answer.
One possibility is that Palin is extremely lacking in her ability to handle questions. If so, then most questions would honestly be “gotcha” questions for her. If this is the case, then she definitely should not be president. Another possibility is that she lied about the question being a “gotcha” question, perhaps to protect her reputation. While this lying is not as bad as Weiner’s, it is still a point of concern.
Both Weiner and Palin could benefit from the wisdom of Confucius: “… if he finds he has made a mistake, then he must not be afraid of admitting the fact and amending his ways.”